In John 10:10b, Jesus tells his disciples that He came so that they may have life in abundance. Some of these followers went ahead to experience the abundant life Jesus was talking about. Others, chief among them being Judas Iscariot, due to unbelief, missed the flight. A thief crept from behind, stole, killed and destroyed them – as stated in John 10:10a.
Let us delve deeper and examine the lives of Jesus’ two apostles – Peter and Paul – peradventure we might come face to face with abundant life.
Peter became bold. He preached to multitudes. Through Peter, Aeneas was healed and Dorcas brought back to life (Acts 9:32-43). Peter experienced a prison break (Acts 12:5-17). He literally walked from prison and joined his friends. He actually walked on death. He was to be killed the following day. It is surprising that Peter lay tranquilly in prison fully aware that he was to face the executioner the following day. Contrast this Peter, to the Peter who denied Jesus in the Gospels: One is enjoying abundant life and the other is enduring a limited life.
There are other miracles and noble works wrought by the Holy Spirit working in Peter (healing of the lame man, the story of Ananias and Saphira).
Paul, on the other hand, through the power of God, healed the crippled (Acts 14:8-10), casts out divination spirits (Acts 16:16-18), Sang in prison until the doors swung open and chains fell off (Acts 16:25-26), brought Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:9-12), and many more miracles.
That is not the whole story. It is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin contains accounts that most of us don’t fancy. Unfortunately, these stories are still part of the abundant life Jesus promised them.
It is unfortunate – humanly speaking – that the gift box of abundant life comes with arrests (Acts 4:3), threats (Acts 4:8) and imprisonments (Acts 12:1-10; 16:16-40). Later on, we see Peter crucified upside down in Rome by Emperor Nero. Paul would be imprisoned and decapitated. They were lonely, deserted by friends, and underwent great turmoil. That is the other side of the coin.
But I have faith and you don’t!
Hebrews 11 explains what faith is. It gives the best answer to the question ‘what is faith?’ Most of us read the definition of faith in verse 1 and stop there. We seldom read the whole chapter to see what faith in practice means. It is only when we read beyond the first verses that we see the other side of a two-sided coin we call faith. For example, we are told that Abraham obeyed God. Faith is obeying God. We cannot claim to exercise our faith when we are living in disobedience. It doesn’t work that way. God is a God of principles. Part of Abraham’s faith involved living as a pilgrim in a strange land and agreeing to sacrifice his only son to God. If you check the history books you will hardly find the names of heroes mentioned in the Hall of Faith. It is because faith does not necessarily make one famous. In fact, in human standards, these people were nobody’s as their faith earned them world disdain.
Faith is not a mental conviction but it rather acts (By faith, Abel ‘offered’ a sacrifice). Faith is very discriminative. It is selfish in the sense that it chooses spiritual over material and eternal over temporal.
Faith is not equal to practising inanity or pettiness. As a matter of fact, by faith, we ‘understand’ that the universe was made by God – creatio ex nihilo. ‘Understand’ is not a monkey business word. It carries more weight than we sometimes imagine.
Therefore abundant life is equal to a life of faith in God as seen in the Books of Acts and Hebrews, and in point of fact, the whole Bible. It is two-sided just like a coin. One side has miracles and niceties. When flipped, the other side contains, threats, floggings, prisons, thorns in the flesh and other stuff we do not like hearing or experiencing. Nonetheless, they all work for the glory of God and for our good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (KJV)
Abundant life entails healing the sick, raising the dead, sleeping serenely in prison-like Peter, running a revival in prison-like Paul and Silus, and many more.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We always talk about fruits but forget to point out the processes and the raw materials – seeds, planting, weeding, pruning, and the roots – that guarantees fruits.
“Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated”
Hebrews 11:36-37 (NIV).